FKA twigs' debut album LP1 deserves the hype
FKA twigs is easily one of the most hyped acts of late. A simple Google of her name brings up a full Wikipedia page, her YouTube channel, a Pitchfork artist page, a Google news section, her Tumblr, her Twitter, her website, and 6,130,000 other results (in 0.19 seconds). She’s all over the internet, a year and a half after uploading her self-released EP1 to Bandcamp. Her LP1 is the nexus of the hype, the culmination of the excitement grown through her two EPs and her numerous accompanying film clips. Her brand of cold, experimental, ambient, barely-there R&B is infused with just enough sex and bravado that it’s on par with any great version of that tried and tested genre. And it’s an exciting sound, one that reinvigorates the often misogynistic world where music, love and sex mingle.
But it’s a burgeoning sexuality that twigs draws upon, not the confident matriarchal kind Beyoncè now controls, nor the male-gaze kind that Rihanna employs. The chorus of "Lights On" is "When I trust you we can do it with the lights on", the kind of naïvely confident but careful phrase I’m sure has been whispered from one lover to another beneath the sheets. Then on "Two Weeks" she jabs out "I can fuck you better than her / motherfucker get your mouth open / you know you're mine", along with lines that exude feminine control like, "You say you want me / I say you’ll live without it / unless you’re the only / one who instigates". These lyrics speak of a young woman finding her power, finding her own identity within a place where it’s often the other gender who controls, manipulates or orchestrates.
There’s still that naïvety there though, it’s in the boundless nature of the sex she’s talking of, where life disappears and things are said and done that sound and look ridiculous in the daylight. But twigs says them with such sincerity that they become endearing. R&B so often deals solely in relationships, and FKA twigs really isn't any different, but things are skewed from the standard fare, like the music that buzzes and floats beneath in equal measure. On "Video Girl" she apparently questions a lover: "Is she the girl from the video? / stop, stop lying to me". But on inspection of her life she becomes the one being questioned. FKA twigs was a backup dancer until she stopped to pursue music in her own right, appearing in videos for pop acts like Jessie J and Kylie Minogue. She denies she’s the one from the video, but the questioner doubts it. These layered meanings add a depth to twigs' brand of R&B that is often shallower over on the pop side of things.
twigs produced the album herself, and the sounds, beats and the way they intertwine is fresh and exposes a new ear and a bright eye, combined with a mind that has clearly thought hard about how to bend and tweak the elements of a pop song into something watery. Where EP2 was heavy, this is quite the light and floating opposite. Builds don’t quite go where you want them to, don’t peak quite where you expect them to. But it’s exciting, not disappointing.
The chorus of "Pendulum" is a good example. There’s no powerful riffs that rise serpent-like out of the mist. Instead, twigs’ voice is the instrument carrying these songs. On "Two Weeks" and "Numbers" it’s strong and forceful, on "Video Girl" and "Pendulum" it’s weaker, stepping more carefully. Then on "Closer" it’s ethereal, reminiscent of Julee Cruise, all ghostly. She has amazing control and manipulates her vocals to suit the woman she’s inhabiting. The music itself is made up of buzzing synths, quiet percussive and minimal beats, there’s even a double bass on "Lights On". Most of it is carefully bathed in reverb. It’s pale blue, with sheens of metal and mist. Then it’s tribal and earthy, but it’s the Earth that’s reclaiming nature from technology. Not one filled with roots and worms.
In the end, the hype and the hyperbole is justified. FKA twigs has dropped a modern, new and quite genius album. She’s considered and clever and clear eyed. Let’s see who gets the first collab (excluding Arca on EP2), or gets to put that little ‘(Feat. FKA twigs)’ on the end of their song title before anyone else does.